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  • For over 29 years, children and young people in Mandeville, Manchester, have benefitted significantly from arts education programmes delivered by the Khulcha Theatre School of Dance.

For over 29 years, children and young people in Mandeville, Manchester, have benefitted significantly from arts education programmes delivered by the Khulcha Theatre School of Dance.

The school’s founder, Carolyn Russell Smith, who has been a pioneer of the performing arts, is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Jamaica 55 Commemorative Medal of Appreciation for Service to Jamaica in Education and the Creative Arts.

She was bestowed with the honour by Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, during an awards ceremony at Jamaica House on April 25.

Mrs. Smith, who is a dance educator, tells JIS News, that she was “elated and happy” when she was notified about her nomination.

“It is nice when someone can recognise that you are doing something (good) because you love it and you are passionate about helping people, especially the young girls of today. I am trying to see if I (can) some of them so that we (can) have a better Jamaica,” she says.

Mrs. Smith indicates that she initiated a dance education programme for youth in central Jamaica 1988, pointing out that the idea of starting the school came about while she worked as a Jamaica Cultural Development Commission performing arts adjudicator in the annual parish competitions.

She notes that during her islandwide sojourns to the various parishes, she kept hearing rural folks lamenting that “that everything is happening in Kingston.”

“I wanted to prove them wrong (by) taking it (dance) out to the country, because there (is a myriad) of talent in the countryside,” she points out.

Mrs. Smith, who has been teaching dance for over 35 years and is one of the teachers pioneering the Caribbean Examination Council’s Theatre Arts (dance) programme, says Khulcha Theatre was one of four schools spearheading the delivery of this course in 2002.

Today, the institution’s students involved in the programme are exposed to the various genres of dance.

The school also offers a reading and extra lesson programme for students, aged three to 18, and has a homework centre which accommodates youngsters after school, while they await their dance classes.

Mrs. Smith says the Khulcha Theatre School, which is registered under the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, also teaches values and attitudes, such as etiquette, punctuality, and respect for each other and time.

“We have tried to train and bring up ladies (in particular) because what we are finding is that a lot of youngsters are losing out on a whole lot (of the foundation values). Hence, one of my (approaches), coming from the old school, is to inculcate the values that I learnt as a child to empower the next generation,” she adds.

Mrs. Smith says her institution also hosts the annual Fit Camp Co-Education Summer School during July, which features wide range of activities.

“We do a rounded summer programme, not only for the girls, but also for the boys. We have drumming, arts and craft, etiquette class, singing, poetry and creative writing. This culminates with a production (where) the parents come to see what the (youngsters) have done throughout (the) four-week programme,” she outlines.

Mrs. Smith, who has been Jamaica’s Representative for Dance and the Child International (daCi) since 2009, will lead a group of Khulcha members to the 2nd Joint World Dance Congress in Adelaide, Australia from July 6 to 13.

She anticipates a rewarding trip, pointing out that “we are looking forward to sharing (with the other participants) and taking some of Jamaica there.”

Despite her busy schedule, Mrs. Smith says she finds the time to give back to her community by hosting career workshops for schools and churches, among other engagements.

She has also served as Youth Chairman for the Mandeville Kiwanis Club and a Director for Kiwanis Club of Manchester, as also Dance Chairperson for Portland.

Additionally, Mrs. Smith has provided scholarships to budding youngsters whose parents or guardians lacked the resources that would facilitate their involvement in the dance programme.

Over the years, Mrs. Smith has copped numerous awards, including: the Rotarian Honour Award for ‘Duty above Self’; the Manchester People’s Choice Recognition Award; the Manchester 200 Business Women Recognition Award; and the National Heroes Day Award for Culture in Manchester.

Asked what advice she would give to young people, she says they should learn “to share and give back.”

“Don’t just take… because the more you give (is) the more you receive. It is beautiful to give and to see others feeling happy and not to be selfish and keep to yourself, because we only pass through this (life) one time, and we need to leave a legacy that others can follow,” Mrs. Smith adds.

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